Editorial: 1 step to improve your arcade – Fix the games!

Shaggy December 5, 2007 9

Have you ever walked into an arcade, looking for your favorite game that you always playbrokemspacman.jpg and once you find it plop in some quarters/tokens to find that one of the buttons don’t work? Or The joystick doesn’t work when pushed in a certain direction? Or maybe the sound doesn’t work? Sometimes you can tell that a game is broken by simply looking at it when the monitor is out of sync or discolored. Either way it doesn’t matter which one of these situations you encounter, it creates a bad experience, especially if you play a 2 player game and it’s only your side that happens to malfunction. Now sometimes players might forgive it if it happens with only one game but what if several games are out of order in some fashion to the point that it feels that half of the arcade is down? Have any of you had this experience? I have and it is quite irritating. In fact I haven’t visited one local arcade in months because my last visit there felt like a total waste of money and since it wasn’t the first time I had such an experience at that particular place, I was fed up with it. I checked out another arcade and it was nearly the same story.

Now am I the only person that experience’s something this annoying at their local arcade? Sadly no. If you look around the internet you’ll find others that have had similar experiences. In fact if you have, feel free to comment to this post.

Now understand that I am not trying to be anti-operator here. As an operator I understand that it can be a challenge to do such work – techs capable of repairing machines are hard to find and generally are expensive to pay. Most of the employees hired to arcades are unskilled with electronics and as an operator yourself you may not have the time nor expertise to fix the games. But consider this : what impression are your customers leaving with if most of your arcade is not functioning? Do you even know if your games are broken? People don’t not enjoy being ripped off and that is exactly what happens when a broken game is left on the floor unlabeled. And they will not come back. No customers = no sales = closed arcade. It seems that some operators simply don’t care about the upkeep of the machines as unsuspecting suckers will put money in regardless of the condition of the game. One thing is guaranteed however –  you will loose customers over broken games. The games are part of an arcade’s life blood. It may not be the primary attraction depending on the type of arcade you run but if they are part of your business at all and you are going to bother to have them, they should be well maintained. Otherwise broken games will cost you more than it would to not fix them in lost sales. If you are already on top of this issue and you do everything you can to keep your games fixed then congratulations.

Continue reading by hitting the post break where you can also feel free to share ideas if you own an arcade and have had success in maintaining a good arcade.

Some useful points in maintaining your arcade even if it is  difficult/expensive to do so. I don’t claim to have all the answers or best suggestions so feel free to comment below on things you have found that helps.

1. Find out what is broken and do it often – One thing your employees can be useful for in maintainance is testing. It should not be difficult to get them to go out and play the games and find problems. How it can be done is up to you but however it is done it should be organized. Certain games can be assigned to certain employees so they are familiar with the games and they should have something to write down the issues they discover with. It could be done everyday or once a week. Either way it should be done often.
2. Train trusted employees to fix simple problems – If you have a few employees it is likely that a one or more of them are people you trust enough to open up the games, you might have even given them a key. If that’s the case then they can be trained to fix simple problems such as button malfunctions, loose cables, etc. Most likely they already know how to take care of something like a jammed coin mech. Not sure how to fix these problems yourself, get your tech to train them or perhaps make an investment into Randy Fromm’s videos. If employees can fix the simple stuff then that leaves the tech to take care of the more complicated problems.

3. If a game has a serious problem, label it or shut it down –  if you are unable to get a game fixed right away then it should be labeled as out of order or turned off ASAP. People feel cheated if they put their tokens into a game they believe is working and it turns out that it isn’t. If it happens more than once to the same customer they will feel burnt out and not come back.

4. Keep track of the games that have the most problems – this is fairly obvious and is done by many arcades already. If certain games constantly cause problems, it might mean that it’s time to sell off the game or at least find out why it has so many issues.

5. Can’t find a tech, check with your local distributor – Some distributors offer tech services for a fee (which can vary). If you are having trouble finding a tech, see if you can get one to come out to your place of business from your local distributor. If you have several distributors in the area that offer such services, shop around and find the best price.

Have more suggestions? Let us know!


  1. SaraAB87 December 5, 2007 at 11:23 pm - Reply

    Yeah, I was in a Chuck E Cheese where about 20% of the games were working, yet the place was filled with tons of customers and more customers coming in. There were just not enough games working to feed the crowd so to speak. However I did see a tech replace a coin mech in a machine, however when I asked him a question if they were going to be getting a certain game in (and showing them a picture of the game), the person was totally clueless. They really should be more on top of their games, especially on a busy day when the kids are not in school, this is not the time to slack off but the time to fix things and show the customers working games! I bet by the end of the day they had like 2 working machines in the whole place. I know I will not be returning to that location and I will be telling friends and family about the broken games in that location so that they can take the kids somewhere else and avoid disappointment.

    The biggest offenders of this seem to be tourist areas, I could probably blog and blog and blog about the broken games in tourist areas. I guess arcades think that American’s are so stupid that we will put money into any game even if its not working, and in some cases sadly, that is the truth. Why spend money to fix the games when your guests are clearly satisfied with the non or half working games you are providing them?

  2. editor December 6, 2007 at 5:35 pm - Reply

    I have an Aladdin’s cave of images of the various ‘Sorry Broken’ signs I see on my travels. The fundamental issue is that for many operators they are so lazy that they wait a week before fixing, and so tight that they don’t want to spend on spares till they have no choice.

    The best sites work the hardest, but I was in a D&B in September that had a hoard of failed machines with they crappy laminated ‘broken’ notices.

    We need a shift in attitudes to operating amusement in order to see better machine support. Thank heaven that amusement sites don’t operate many simulators or we would have wiped out most of the players by now!

  3. editor December 6, 2007 at 5:38 pm - Reply

    On extra point:

    Randy Fromm’s website is a good source: http://randyfromm.com/amusements/arcadeschool/

  4. SaraAB87 December 6, 2007 at 10:24 pm - Reply

    The issue that I find here is that they don’t know the game is broken, so when you tell them its broken they fix it (with the exception of the tourist areas which just don’t care period). This could be solved by play-testing the games each day before close but I guess there isn’t enough time to do that. I guess they figure if someone takes the time out to complain that it was important enough to that person so they fix it. But since they don’t have parts on hand (or sometimes parts are hard to find) it takes a while to fix the game.

  5. Shaggy December 6, 2007 at 11:53 pm - Reply

    I agree that play-testing the games is a good idea and it works. Each arcade will have different needs and obviously this won’t work for routes much but if you have an arcade with employees they can playtest the games – maybe just a couple of games before opening, a few on break (most arcade employees play something when on break, if they find something wrong it should be policy to report it) and a few after work. Or set aside an day when they go out an playtest after close. Most arcades do something like that when they do token pull – make a day like it but play-test.

    BTW- Thanks for the Randy Fromm link Editor

  6. SaraAB87 December 7, 2007 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    Usually games on route are maintained well here, because the company that provides most of the games in my city actually goes out and answers the service calls, and they even told me that I could call them anytime if there was a problem. They know that a broken game doesn’t earn any money. Also these locations are usually staffed so if a customer finds a broken game they usually report it to the nearest employee of the business the game is in. There is usually a business card on each game here with phone number and address of the vendor providing the games.

  7. twistedsupreme December 7, 2007 at 10:50 pm - Reply

    sorry, bit late to the discussion, but what really steams my bean is when machines have broken buttons but the machine is still switched on. So you put ur money in and dont get a playable game.

    I might start carrying around “buttons out of order” signs so i can stick them on the offending machines and save people money!

    The worst locations in my experience are Airports.

  8. HeavyElectricity December 10, 2007 at 11:39 am - Reply

    Ugh, any transportation is pretty bad. I once hit upon a small arcade in a cross-channel ferry, which was great apart from that only one game worked properly (ironically, it was Behind Enemy Lines, which was the oldest game there).

  9. Mark N October 30, 2011 at 3:58 am - Reply

    For more help on this topic try our instructional videos on You Tube. Just do a search for “arcade repair tips” We have many videos that will show you how to fix common arcade game problems. Check out our facebook page also to get your questions answered.

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